French consider Calais blockade or cutting UK energy supplies over fishing and NI Protocol disputes

Thu 7 Oct 2021
Posted by: William Barns-Graham
Trade News

calais port

The French are considering either blockading the Port of Calais or cutting off power supplies to Britain unless its fishermen get greater access to British waters.

Europe minister Clement Beaune said that France was exasperated by restrictions on French fleets, which he said were contrary to the Brexit agreement.

Power cut

The Independent reports a radio interview in which Beaune said France would “take measures at the European level or nationally, to apply pressure on the UK”.

He added: “For example, we can imagine, since we’re talking about energy, the United Kingdom depends on our energy supplies. It thinks that it can live all alone, and bash Europe.”

According to UK government statistics, France exported 8,700 gigawatt hours of energy to Britain in 2020.

Blockade

French fishermen are also threatening to block the port of Calais in the lead up to Christmas, reports Sky News.

They claim they have been “deceived” by the British government over fishing licence applications and have called on the European Commission to take “retaliatory measures”.

Licences refused

The UK government announced last month it had approved just 12 of the 47 applications it received from French small boats.

A later announcement by the Jersey government that it had rejected 75 of 170 licence applications from French boats, further antagonised French fishermen.

Jersey authorities cited insufficient evidence that the boats had previously fished in its waters for the refusals.

Christmas missive

Olivier Lepretre, president of the fishing committee for the northern Hauts-de-France region, said: “As far as French fishermen in northern France are concerned, in the absence of any results, the blocking of the port of Calais and exports to the United Kingdom for the period leading up to Christmas is an option.”

Only 31 out of a possible 70 eligible vessels from Hauts-de-France have been granted permission to operate in British waters.

‘Dreadful’ relations

According to the Times, President Macron is said to be seeking ways to increase the pressure on the UK as one British cabinet minister called relations between London and Paris “dreadful”.

An aide to Macron said the president’s faith in the UK as a reliable partner had been affected by Boris Johnson’s threats to tear up the Northern Ireland Protocol and the fishing licence stand-off.

Relations have been further strained by the AUSUK defence pact that lost France a multi-billion deal to supply Australia with submarines.

‘Unreasonable’

The Telegraph reports that minister for EU relations Lord Frost has accused France of making “unreasonable” threats to Britain’s energy supply, contrasting French behaviour with the UK’s “extremely generous” approach to fishing licences.

He claims: “We have granted 98% of the licence applications from the EU boats.”

With Frost warning the EU that Britain could trigger Article 16 unless changes to the Northern Ireland Protocol satisfy the UK, the BBC reports the EU will bring forward new “very far reaching” proposals for the Protocol next week.

‘Practical solutions’

European Commission vice president Maros Sefcovic told an event in Dublin that he hoped talks would begin before the end of October.

“I believe the package of practical solutions that we are putting on the table would be attractive for Northern Ireland and would be, I hope, supported by a majority of stakeholders in Northern Ireland,” he told the Institute of International and European Affairs (IIEA) in Dublin.

Sefcovic has previously stated that the Protocol will not be renegotiated and that changes must occur within the existing framework – a stance that puts him at odds with Frost who is looking for a complete overhaul.